Long before Margaret Wang Rattay ’97 enrolled in the Washington Program, she loved the nation’s capitol. In fact, it was during a high school trip she made to D.C. to attend a week-long conference that Margaret (a Government/Music major at CMC) became interested in the workings of government and how she could become involved.
She got her wish when she enrolled in the Washington Program in the fall of 1995. “I wanted to experience what it would be like to live and work in D.C.,” Maggie says, “all within the parameters that CMC provided.”
Those parameters – full-time internships rooted in serious discussions of contemporary political issues -- have helped to make the Program a proud tradition at CMC for more than four decades and have benefited generations of students at the College.
A chance to exit the “left coast” for a time and “begin to try to understand the center of American power” was how CMC alumni Henry Johnson ’14 termed his reason for attending the Washington Program in the spring of 2013.
“What I found most valuable in the program was the exposure it provided to the professional working world,” Johnson (a dual major in History and Government at CMC) says. “Previously, I hadn't ever had to wear nice clothes and go work a 9-5 on top of schoolwork. In a sense, it felt like homework became the extracurricular activity and my internship the core curriculum. Above all, it helped prepare me for the rigors of a demanding career field like journalism.”
After graduating from CMC, Johnson traveled first to Colombia with friends for a few weeks, then to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on a State Department critical language scholarship in Persian. He then traveled to Turkey for a three-week jaunt with another best friend from CMC.
An intense interest in foreign policy led Harry Kruglik ’01 into the Washington Program in 1999, and he hasn’t looked back since – not for a minute.
“Working at the American Foreign Service Association, the voice of America's diplomats, I learned about pressing foreign policy and personnel issues from the perspective of State Department employee, and important but basic skills like how to work in a professional environment,” he said. “It was very helpful!”
After earning a law degree at George Washington University Law School, Kruglik, who majored in International Relations and History at CMC, went “straight into politics” where he said he was lucky enough to associate himself with Barack Obama during his 2004 Senate race (for more than two years, Kruglik worked as a Legislative Clerk for Obama).
“I had an interest in politics and the program was a chance to learn about government and politics in the most powerful city in the world since, in my opinion, Washington D.C. is basically the strongest seat of government in the world,” says Kevin Arnold ’90 about the reasons that drew him to participate in the Washington Program in January 1989. “It also was first time I lived outside of the Los Angeles area, and I had some cousins living in D.C. including one that I stayed with during my time there. Capitol Hill itself was a draw. I had an opportunity to intern at different office for a national nonprofit organization, but I wanted to work on Capitol Hill and I was glad I did.”
We recently caught up with Crystal Adams ’12, a dual major in Government and Psychology with a Leadership Series sequence, and asked her a few questions about the time she spent in the Washington Program. It was the Spring Semester of her junior year and, as Crystal explains, the Washington Program was the prime reason she enrolled in CMC.
Q: What specifically drew you to participate in the Washington Program?
Katie Rodihan ’14 was drawn to CMC by the College’s focus on pragmatic education. What she learned in the fall of 2012 is that the Washington Program is the perfect embodiment of that ideal. For Rodihan, it was an exciting time to be in D.C. with the presidential race in full swing and budget negotiations front and center.
“You learn about issues from all angles: at your internship, in class where your professors help you understand the nuances and strategies at plan, and then new perspectives from your classmates who are working on the same or similar issues at their internships,” she says. “Then you go to work the next day with a more in-depth and well-rounded understanding. That process helps Washington Program students shine as interns.”
Byron Koay ’06 and the Washington Program were made for each other.
Since graduation, Koay, an Economics and Government dual major, has been involved in D.C. politics in a big way. “I was always interested in politics going into CMC and thought it would be a great experience to live and work in Washington, D.C.,” he says. “I don’t know how it is now but when I was at CMC, the program was seen as a very competitive and prestigious opportunity to do something that not many students in the country get to do.”
Q: What did you take home from the Program?
Koay: Learning how to balance work and life probably much earlier than rest of my peers because we had to work a full-time internship, attend classes at night (which required reading and writing papers), and living a “real-world” existence (finding your own apartment, maintaining it, etc.).
Gavin Landgraf ’14 knew he wanted to participate in the Washington Program during his junior year even before enrolling at CMC.
“My interest in public policy drew me to D.C., and I knew the Washington Program, which runs during the academic year instead of over the summer, would be the best way of experiencing the nation’s capital,” he says. “Once I arrived at CMC, Dr. Ken Miller recommended that I apply for the Program and helped me arrange my internship at the law firm Cooper & Kirk.”
Landgraf, a PPE major at CMC remembers the fall of 2012 as an exciting time to be in the U.S. Capitol.
“There is no denying that the Washington Program is demanding, between the academic workload and the full-time job,” he says. “I found that the pressure helped me to build professional habits such as communicating clearly, managing expectations and sticking to a personal schedule. These habits were essential during my senior year at CMC and in the years since D.C.”
Jenna Hussein ’15 is a newly-minted CMC graduate who participated in the Washington Program just three years ago in the fall of 2013. But despite Hussein’s relatively short time-span to date out in the “real world” post-graduation, she, like many CMCers before her (and doubtless many others that will come after) has packed a lot of activity in that duration.
“I graduated in May 2015, backpacked in Europe/West Africa for two months, and began working at an economic consulting firm (Analysis Group) in Los Angeles,” she says. “I am involved with pro bono work through the company and am currently researching the long-term outcomes of HIV treatment programs in Rwanda.”
Back in the fall of 1991, Matthew Bibbens ’92 gained something from the Washington Program that he can sum up in one word: Confidence. “I learned to have confidence in myself and developed the ability to see the Program as an opportunity to apply what I had learned at CMC in more of a real world setting,” he says.
Bibbens, who graduated from CMC with an Economics-History dual major, admits that his academic trajectory at CMC “lagged a bit.”
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